01/13/2005 12:00AM

More Smoke a nice surprise

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
More Smoke, winning the Dancing Count, has won three of his four starts.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - John Zimmerman said More Smoke didn't show enough in the mornings to run him for anything higher than a $25,000 claiming price in his debut last October. Now, Zimmerman considers himself fortunate he didn't lose the colt.

More Smoke won his debut and has gone on to win twice more from three additional starts, including the Dancing Count Stakes at Pimlico on New Year's Day. Now, More Smoke will try to give Zimmerman his first win at a New York track when he runs in Monday's $75,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct.

More Smoke is one of six or seven 3-year-olds being pointed to the Jimmy Winkfield, a six-furlong race formerly known as the Best Turn Stakes. Aqueduct will conduct a nine-race card on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

More Smoke is based at Penn National, but he has won his races at Delaware, Mountaineer, and Pimlico. He won his debut at Delaware on Oct. 19, going gate to wire in 1:12.20 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 67. After losing his second start because of a poor start, More Smoke has romped to victory in his last two starts.

"To tell you the truth, he wasn't working that great," Zimmerman said, when asked why he started him for a $25,000 tag. "As soon as we ran him that first time everything changed. The way he would gallop in the morning, the way he would breeze, he got really aggressive. After that first race it was as if a light went on."

On Dec. 10, More Smoke won an allowance race at Mountaineer Park by 13 lengths before winning the Dancing Count by 3 3/4 at Pimlico. Zimmerman said he is not overly concerned about running the horse back in 16 days.

"He seems like he's improving every race," Zimmerman said. "His [Beyer] number wasn't quite as good as it was at Mountaineer, but the race came up just as tough, if not tougher. He's doing really great now."

Rafael Bejarano, the leading rider at the inner-track meet, will have the call on More Smoke, who was scheduled to blow out three furlongs at Penn National on Saturday and van here Monday morning.

Others pointing to the Jimmy Winkfield are Gold Joy, Lieutenant Danz, Maddy's Lion, Primal Storm, and Smokin Forest. Pavo is under consideration, but was also entered in Saturday's Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct.

Seven likely for Busanda

Winning Season, winner of the Raging Fever Stakes, heads a field of seven 3-year-old fillies expected to run in Sunday's $75,000 Busanda Stakes.

Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Winning Season finished third in the Grade 2 Demoiselle before winning the Raging Fever by two lengths.

Also expected to run are Amazing Buy, Dancin on Broadway, Manhattan Appeal, Pretty Partisan, Rahys' Appeal, and Secrets Galore.

Aqueduct's numbers mixed

Total handle at Aqueduct's recently concluded fall meet was up significantly from a year ago, but ontrack handle and attendance were down.

Total handle for the 41-day meet that ended Dec. 31 was $355,622,846, up 10.8 percent from 2003, when there were 38 racing days. The daily average handle of $8,673,728, was a 2.7 percent increase from a year ago.

Ontrack handle, however, was down 6.4 percent to $29,388,457. Daily average ontrack handle was $716,792, a decrease of 13.2 percent.

The daily average attendance of 3,314 was down 17.6 percent from a year ago. Overall attendance was down 11.1 percent to 135,883.

* Richard Migliore took off his two mounts on Thursday due to illness.